Was it really two short months ago we were basking in the land of Best-Of-Everything? Another hot, sunny summer with just the right amount of rain had given us acres of vines bending over generous clusters of clean, ripe fruit. We were looking at another 2020-style, early harvest, with a yield bonus added in.
And then, a couple of weeks into harvest and quicker than you can say “too good to be true”, the earth shifted. Rain became an almost weekly visitor. Other days remained hot and humid, sometimes with all-day fog. Suddenly, we were scrambling to head off fruit saturation and breakdown.
The remedies looked uncomplicated: accelerate the harvest schedule and extend working hours on the good days. We’re picky about hand-picking, so we’d look for extra hands and, if a weather forecast was yelling “pick up the pace”, we could call for a machine to help.
However, uncomplicated on paper does not mean uncomplicated on the ground. An entire wine region was coping, so extra harvest help, manual and mechanical, was high in demand and not easily found. Our winery’s capacity made another bottle-neck. Ideally, a gradual harvest allows one wine to clear fermentation tanks in time for the next. If the harvest pace moves faster, there’s a risk of too many press-loads competing for the same equipment.
In the end, we had to limit picking to the pace at the receiving end, which meant settling for a smaller yield than we’d anticipated. To this end, hard choices were made; in more than one case fruit yield was sacrificed in the interests of timeliness and high quality.
As you read, the adjustments have been made and the harvest of 2021 is over 90 % complete, with only some later-ripening red varieties remaining on vine. Occasional sprays are needed to guard against mildew and botrytis but still, we are keeping well within our Sustainable regimen.
As to what to expect, our Winemaker broadly predicts bright fruit flavours and more modest alcohol, but the detailed personalities of 2021 wines are locked in bottle, to be fully revealed only when the first are opened. After all, this has been a vintage like no other.